Where would you travel if you’d won the Mega Millions jackpot?

With today’s announcement that ticketholders in Kansas, Illinois and Maryland will share a record-breaking $640 million jackpot, several lucky buyers will spend the weekend dreaming about how to spend their windfalls – and I’d wager that travel will be part of the fantasy.

“Buy an island near Hawaii,” noted one Facebook wag when USA TODAY asked what readers would do with a winning ticket.

“Take a couple of years off of work and travel the world,” said another.

So, where would you head if you struck lottery gold?

You could always start small by spending 24 days and $68, 950 per person to fly around the world by private jet with Alex Trebek and National Geographic Expeditions, or join Ashton Kutcher and other astronauts-in-waiting who’ve committed $200,000 for a Virgin Galactic joyride in space.

Or, if James Cameron’s recent submarine explorations have whetted your appetite for deep-seas adventures, you could book a flight to the island of Roatan, Honduras – where, for a mere $5,600, you’ll be ferried 1,500 feet below the surface in search of six-gill sharks.

Other dream itineraries, if money were no object?

Article source: http://travel.usatoday.com/destinations/dispatches/post/2012/03/where-would-you-travel-if-you-won-the-mega-millions-lottery/661092/1

‘Beer travel’ a growing piece of tourism industry

It’s the time of year when parents are thinking about summer plans for their young kids, but why should the school-aged set have all the fun? There are plenty of adult-oriented camps, trips and tours that combine learning about beer with a memorable experience.

Brewers Association President and Boulder resident Charlie Papazian will host one such retreat this summer on Whitehead Island, a small coastal island near Rockland, Maine. Scheduled for July 27 through Aug. 1, guests stay in private quarters in the renovated keeper’s house at the historic Whitehead Light Station and enjoy an intimate craft-beer seminar lead by Papazian that will includes tastings, discussions, lectures, field trips and family-style meals made with fresh

local ingredients.

Papazian, author of “The Complete Joy of Home Brewing,” founded the Association of Brewers, as well as the Great American Beer Festival. He also taught home-brewing classes in Boulder for many years, and is one of craft brewing’s most knowledgeable and ardent advocates.

He promises to share his expertise, as well as select bottles from his beer collection and some homebrewed beers and meads. This will be Papazian’s fourth time hosting the retreat for the nonprofit Whitehead Light Station, and he says that the small group size and relaxed setting are especially conducive to learning about and enjoying beer at a leisurely pace.

“Being right on the mouth of the Penobscot Bay overlooking the sea and lobster

boats when they do their morning and evening runs is comforting,” says Papazian. “The island is big enough to do some exploring and then there are so many other things to see and do. And it seems we work good beer and good times into each day.”

Visit www.whiteheadlight

station.org for registration information. The retreat costs $1,500 double room/$1,900 single and is all inclusive.

If you’d

like to elevate your heart rate while boosting your beer appreciation, an active tour from Zephyr Adventures may be more your speed. The company will conduct two beer-related tours this summer that combine cycling and hiking with great beers.

There’s a Colorado trip Oct. 8-12 that departs from Boulder and visits Fort Collins, Estes Park and Denver. The tour includes accommodations each night, guided hiking and cycling, and a visit to a local brewpub each evening.

Local residents however might be more interested in the Yellowstone tour scheduled for July 20-25. This trip loops through and around Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, with stops in Bozeman, Big Sky, Jackson, and Red Lodge,

Montana. The trip also visits breweries in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, with educational components throughout.

“In my opinion, beer travel is just becoming a real segment of the tourism industry,” says company founder and Boulder resident Allan Wright. “On the basic end, ‘beer travel’ probably just involves seeking out a brewpub or local brewery when someone is traveling for work or vacation. More serious is when people actually plan their trips to visit areas that have good breweries.”

It’s the best of both worlds. Visit www.zephyradventures

.com for details. The Colorado trip costs $1,700 (plus $600 for a single room) and the Yellowstone trip

costs $1,900 ($700 single).

Water is the main ingredient in beer, so it’s fitting that the Paddles and Pints rafting trip offered by Rogue Wilderness Adventures combines the two in a fun-filled Labor Day weekend, Aug. 31-Sept. 3.

Guests spend four days paddling down Oregon’s Rogue River and three evenings camped out riverside enjoying gourmet meals and a selection of craft beer’s from Eugene, Oregon-based Ninkasi Brewing.

The company also offers a Hop-i-licious Hiking tour that travels down the historic Rogue River hiking trail. Each evening includes beer tastings from a featured brewery (including a few rare international beers), as well as a visit from a featured brewer who will spend time

explaining their craft and talking about the beers.

Call 541-479-9554 or visit wildrogue.com for more information on either trip. Both cost $1,050 per person, plus government fees, and include all camping equipment, food, guides, transportation and beer.

Article source: http://www.dailycamera.com/features/ci_20274970/boulder-beer-travel-tourism

Travel briefs: Hyatt’s digital rooms; Princess cruises for Japan; Iberia’s low …


Hyatt giving its rooms a digital makeover

Hyatt Hotel Corp. has announced plans to install digital programs in as many as 60,000 rooms that will let guests use the in-room televisions to order food, book local tours, make dinner reservations, order extra towels from room service and surf the Internet.

The technology has been installed in nearly 1,800 rooms at Hyatt Regency locations at the Denver Tech Center and New Orleans, as well as the Andaz 5th Avenue in New York.

The upgrades represent the latest move by the hotel industry to use technology to lure more guests, increase the sale of in-room entertainment and reduce staffing needs. What

makes the Chicago-based company’s move significant is that it is installing the upgrades throughout the chain.


Princess Cruises sailing into Japanese market

Cruise operator Carnival Corp. plans to bring its Princess Cruises brand to Japan with an 87-day program that includes nine cruises on seven different itineraries.

The company said its Sun Princess vessel will offer cruises from April through July 2013 and is expected to carry more than 18,000 passengers during that time.

The cruises, which will run from nine days to 12 days, will depart from Yokohama and Kobe. The cruises will being during the national holiday of Golden Week.

The cruises will start at $1,490 per person, which is for a nine-day trip with double occupancy.

Carnival is looking to capitalize on the growing Japanese cruise market.

Compiled from Bay Area News Group wire services.

Article source: http://www.mercurynews.com/travel/ci_20282489/travel-briefs-hyatts-digital-rooms-princess-cruises-japan

Travel Q&A: Airline changed our flights; now what?

Q Two months ago, I booked four round-trip, nonstop tickets on United to take my 80-year-old mother and my two children to Philadelphia to visit family. I was recently notified by email that our flights had been changed to include a stop, a change of planes and several hours of increased travel time on both legs of the trip. I called United and was given the option of a refund or the new flights and a $75 travel voucher. Neither solution is acceptable. I booked United because the ticket was about $220 less than US Airways, another option. Buying new tickets will cost me about $900 more. I asked United to arrange for me to fly on US Airways. Is that possible?

L. Lasker, Encino


Here’s the end of the story first: Lasker is flying on US Airways for about the same money as her United tickets would have cost. The credit for this goes to Lasker.

When I asked United whether granting this request was possible, the answer was a short but not unkind no. I can see why United would not want to set such precedent.

I also know, having flown with an elderly parent, that you need to control all the stresses you can; one way to do this is a nonstop flight on a schedule that closely coincides with the parent’s schedule.

The amazing thing is that United offered Lasker a refund. This is, of course, the right thing to do, but that doesn’t always happen in the airline industry — or any

industry — unless you’re an elite customer. Lasker confirmed that she doesn’t hold premier status on United.

“She’s not an elite traveler and … she got a heckuva deal as far as I’m concerned,” said Andrew R. Thomas, an assistant professor of international business at the University of Akron in Ohio and the author of “Soft Landing: Airline Industry Strategy, Service, and Safety.”

He said many companies have dropped the notion (if, indeed, they ever had it) that all customers should

be treated equally well. Many now use a variation on that theme: All customers should be treated well, but not equally.

Thomas said he sees this with his hotel rewards program. Someone who has bought a room inexpensively on Priceline isn’t going to be treated badly at the hotel. However, he noted, with elite status, “they’re going to treat me very well. … They’re going to give me free upgrades. They smile at me; they’re nicer. I’m like part of the family; I’m part of the club.

“It’s a cold calculus,” he said, adding: “I think that’s just the reality of business today.”

If Lasker’s ability to get a refund is not enough of a miracle for you, consider that she found tickets on US Airways that were less than what they would

have been at the time she bought her United tickets.

Lasker said she checked the US Airways website “daily, sometimes hourly,” she said, until she found the fare she wanted.

She defied the odds not once but twice and provided an important lesson for leisure travelers: You may not be an elite or a diamond or a platinum or whatever precious gem or metal the travel provider has ascribed to its best customers, but you do deserve to get what you pay for. She was, in the end, her own best advocate.

Today’s QA comes from Catharine Hamm of the Los Angeles Times.

Article source: http://www.mercurynews.com/travel/ci_20282544/travel-q-airline-changed-our-flights-now-what

New AirRide bus travels between Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro

There’s a new public transit option for those who want to travel between Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro Airport.

It’s called AirRide, and it hits the road Monday.

The AirRide bus is not your average mass transit ride. For starters, there’s wi-fi, outlets for your laptop, and a bathroom. Apparently the seats are comfortable, too. So comfy that Ann Arbor Transportation Authority‘s David Nacht describes them as “more comfortable than three out of the four chairs” in his living room.

Nacht says the bus is as much for Ann Arbor area residents as it for out-of-towners:

“Just to see that they could easily come here would help put Ann Arbor on the map for people who visit metro Detroit and don’t think about us; now they’ll notice that they can get here easily and we’re a leader in transit.”

Congressman John Dingell was also at the public unveiling of the new AirRide. He describes the new public-private transit system  as more than just a bus.

“It’s a movement towards integrated transportation,” explains Dingell. “It’s a movement to help our people here create jobs that will benefit the country; t’s about people working together, which they seem to do rather poorly these days.”

The bus will make 12 daily trips from Ann Arbor to Detroit Metro. It will cost $12 each way if reserved in advance, $15 for walk-ons.

No Alternative Text

Article source: http://www.npr.org/local/stories/Michigan-Radio/149717711

Perry’s security during presidential run cost Texas taxpayers $3.6M in travel …

AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Rick Perry’s failed run for president has cost Texas taxpayers more than $3.6 million — and counting — in travel expenses and overtime pay to agents assigned to his security detail, according to an Associated Press analysis of state reports released Friday.

The Texas Department of Public Safety spent more than $1.8 million on airfare, food, fuel, lodging and other travel expenses between Aug. 10 and the end of January as it protected the governor on the campaign trail.

That tally includes newly issued second-quarter accounts on security-related travel expenses, as well information from previous months the AP obtained using open records requests.

The agency said that though Perry’s campaign is over, the latest figures were, “a snapshot in time as of Feb. 28, so it is possible additional expenses for trips during this time period will be included in the next report.”

Perry spent 160 days running for president, formally entering the race in South Carolina on Aug. 13, 2011, and calling off his campaign in the same state on Jan. 19, two days before South Carolina’s primary.

Security travel expenses are separate from the more than $1.8 million in overtime compensation DPS paid agents assigned to Perry and his family between August and January, according to Department of Public Safety records. That total, as of Feb. 27, also could increase as more agents file for previously worked overtime.

Perry spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said, “Governor Perry is governor of Texas wherever he travels.”

“It’s unfortunate that we live in a world where security is a top concern, but we do,” Frazier said Friday. “Providing security detail to the governor and his family is a concern that goes back many administrations and is no different from when Governor Bush ran for president.”

“It’s unfortunate that we live in a world where security is a top concern, but we do,” Frazier said Friday. “Providing security detail to the governor and his family is a concern that goes back many administrations and is no different from when Governor Bush ran for president.”

Indeed, when Perry’s predecessor, George W. Bush ran for president in 2000, his security detail cost the state nearly $4 million in 1999 and part of 2000, before the Secret Service took over.

Perry most frequently traveled to early-voting states, including Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, though he also made fundraising stops in Washington, New York and California. Some of the listed expenses included in-state trips to places such as Dallas and Houston.

For security reasons, the state does not reveal how many troopers accompany the governor or how far in advance they arrive at a destination. The state accounting reports also often list multiple destinations grouped together as part of one trip with single entries for travel expenses — making it difficult to track exactly how many places the governor visited.

Still, a single December trip to Washington, Des Moines, Iowa, and Boston alone is listed as costing $50,536 in travel expenses for the governor’s security detail.

Not included in either the security travel expenses or overtime tabs are the 126 days Perry spent outside Texas while running for president, which forced the state to pay the lieutenant governor or Senate pro tem $32,466 to fill in as acting governor.

When Perry is out-of-state for a full day, $410.96 in acting governor pay goes to fellow Republican and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, or, if Dewhurst is also absent, to state Sen. Mike Jackson, R-La Porte. Dewhurst collected $29,589 while Perry was a presidential candidate, and Jackson got $2,876.

Perry is paid $150,000 per year, no matter how many days he spends outside Texas.

Cash outlays aside, running for president seriously limited the amount of time Perry spent working on state business. Of the160 days as a GOP presidential hopeful, Perry had no scheduled state events on 128 of those. And he logged only approximately 27 hours and 30 minutes of actual work time on the 32 days Texas matters did appear on his official schedule.

Article source: http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/d1138702f23d4ba6882884091676dfb0/TX--Perrys-Campaign-Costs/

Travel Tech Q&A: Clearswift’s Phil Vasic

Phil Vasic, regional director for Clearswift Asia Pacific, and serial traveller for work and pleasure, took some time out to tell us about some of his experiences when on the road.

Phil Vasic

Phil Vasic
(Credit: Clearswift)

What tech do you travel with and why?

My BlackBerry, essential for keeping up to date while I’m out of the office. Skype on my PC is essential for touching base with my family.

What’s your favourite phone app for travelling and why?

Cortado Flight Mode for BlackBerry. This app automatically disconnects my BlackBerry from any wireless services with one click (and re-activates them when I arrive), and also downloads the full versions of emails that have not yet been completely retrieved, which means that you’re not caught with only part of an email downloaded when you’re trying to catch up on the plane.

Most memorable travel story/experience?

Last year, my wife, three sons and I did a round-the-world trip to celebrate my 40th birthday. The highlight for me was visiting Old Trafford to watch Man U play, but I think the kids would put in their vote for Disneyland.

Personal travel advice/tip?

Save your frequent flyer points for upgrade, it’s the best use of your points and lets you arrive a little more refreshed.

How do you deal with jet lag?

When flying to London, I always try to stay awake for the first leg and sleep on the second, which gets you into local time a little quicker. I also think noise-cancelling headphones reduce the impact of the aircraft hum; it is surprising how noisy a plane is when you think it’s quiet.

What (if any) travel websites do you use?

We’re lucky to have a great travel agent at Flight Centre, who make all of our bookings for us and are fantastic. TripAdvisor is a great tool for checking out any hotels I’m not sure of before I make the final booking.

What was your biggest travel disaster?

I was on a flight from LA to Denver many years ago, when we hit a snow storm during meal service and food — cutlery and drinks were flying around the cabin. When we arrived, it turned out that there must have also been a cabin-pressure issue in the cargo hold, as most of the luggage was frozen solid.

Where is the best place you’ve been for duty-free tech shopping?

Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur are the best I’ve seen, and it’s a great way to fill in time when you are in transit.

What is your dream travel tech to have on planes/in airports/at hotels? (Stuff they don’t have yet but boy it would make life so much easier on the road.)

Wi-Fi on the plane — if only for time to catch up with the family. Long trips are time efficient, but sometimes the only time-zone crossover is on the plane.

Favourite destination city to work/visit and why? (In relation to technology.)

Tokyo — it’s so bright with a good mix of new technology adoption and culture.

Article source: http://www.zdnet.com.au/travel-tech-qanda-clearswifts-phil-vasic-339334163.htm

Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Antigua

Fri Mar 30, 2012 1:37pm EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) – With 365 beaches, one for every day of the year, Antigua in the Leeward Islands is considered one of gems of the Eastern Caribbean.

Palm trees and lush vegetation line the pristine shores of the island, which was once an important base for Britain. Today, Antigua is a stop for cruise ships, which dock in the capital St John’s, and a sailing and yachting destination.

With its luxury resorts, hotels and guest houses tourism is the most important industry.

Although it merits a longer stay, visitors can still make the most of a short visit to Antigua, which is just 108 square miles, and has about 68,000 residents.


Unless traveling by boat, visitors to Antigua arrive at V.C. Bird International Airport in the capital, St. John’s, which has direct flights from U.S. and European cities and is a short drive to the resorts on the island’s western Caribbean shore or the eastern Atlantic coast.

Take a minivan or taxi to your hotel, or if you are planning to really discover Antigua rent a car for your stay. Driving is on the left side of the road. The island is not very large, the roads are paved and well marked and Antiguans are happy to offer directions.

6:15 p.m. – After settling into your resort or hotel enjoy a cocktail on the beach while watching the sun set over the Caribbean and then take a stroll on the white sandy shore before dinner.

8:00 p.m. – Time to eat. Some resorts offer all-inclusive stays including meals and most have restaurants catering to their guests, but eateries offering all types of cuisine can be found around the island.

If you are not eating at your resort, head to Nelson’s Dockyard, which was named after British Admiral Horatio Nelson, on the southern end of the island and try the Admiral’s Inn (460-1027 1153). It offers international and West Indian cuisine and local seafood.

10:00 p.m. – The night is still young so head to Abracadabra (460 2701), an Italian restaurant just outside Nelson’s Dockyard that transforms into an outdoor nightclub in the early hours.


9:00 – After an early morning breakfast, head to the beach for a swim in the clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean. All of the beaches on Antigua are open to the public.

Many resorts situated on the beach have free kayaks and windsails for guests, and there are plenty of locals offering jet-ski and catamaran rides or diving and snorkeling trips for the more adventurous.

12:00 p.m. – Take a break from the sun and head south on Valley Road, which runs along the southwestern curve of the island, to Deadwood Beach, one of the island’s most beautiful beaches, where you can lunch at a local restaurant right on the beach.

Try the tuna or conch salad and local fruit juices such as guava and tamarind.

1:00 p.m. – After lunch you might want to try something completely different, drive further south along the coast road until you reach Fig Tree Drive, a winding road into the rainforest which is lined with lush vegetation including banana, guavas, mango and orange trees.

Stop at the top of the road at the center for the Antigua Rainforest Canopy Tour (562-6363), where Rangers lead visitors on zip-lines across the gorge every day except Sundays.

Not for the faint-hearted, the full canopy tour takes about 2.5 hours. Bookings are recommended. If time is limited there is a 75 minute tour on nine zip lines up to 360 feet and 300-feet long.

A 99-year-old man is the oldest to complete the tour, according to the rangers. The tour is not recommended for pregnant women or people with back, knee or shoulder problems or those with a heart condition.

If traversing the gorge on zip lines fills you with dread, you can still enjoy the spectacular views and have a drink or snack at the bar/cafe or viewing veranda and hit the gift shop.

6:00 p.m. – After a refreshing shower and change of clothes at your hotel watch another incredible sunset before dinner.

8:00 p.m. – Head to Dickenson Bay at the northwestern end of the island where several resorts including Sandals Grande Antigua Resort Spa, Antigua Village, Halcyon by Rex Resorts and the Buccaneer Beach Club are situated.

The Bay House Restaurant (462 1223) at Trade Winds Hotel on a hill that overlooks the bay serves international meals with a Caribbean twist. If you prefer a restaurant closer to the beach, try Coconut Grove Restaurant Beach Bar (462 1538), which also has a happy hour from 4:30-7 p.m. Reservations are recommended at all the restaurants.

10:00 p.m. – For late night entertainment the Rush Night Club (562 7874) at nearby Runaway Bay features Hip Hop, RR and other types of music.

Visitors hoping to try their luck at Black Jack, roulette, poker or on the slot machines should head to King’s Casino (462 1727) in Heritage Quay in St John’s. It is open until 4:00 a.m. seven days a week.


9:00 a.m. – After an early light breakfast drive to St John’s for a walk around the city and some shopping. Visit the shops at Heritage Quay and also Historic Redcliffe Quay at the bottom of Redcliffe Street near the cruise ship pier.

11:00 – St John’s Cathedral, between Newgate and Long Streets, was originally constructed around 1683 and completely rebuilt in 1843 following an earthquake. Although it is currently closed for restoration, visitors can walk around the imposing Baroque-style structure and view the memorial stones around the cathedral.

12:00 – Drive to the southern end of the island to Shirley Heights Lookout (728 0636) for their Sunday Barbeque Party complete with steel bands. It is a tradition that has been going for 30 years. The views are breathtaking and it is an ideal stop before heading to the airport for the return home.

(Reporting by Patricia Reaney)

Article source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/30/us-travel-antigua-idUSBRE82T10I20120330

What’s the Deal? This week’s best travel bargains around the globe


● The Woodstock Inn Resort in Woodstock, Vt., is offering a Sugar Season Escape package to celebrate the maple syrup season. Rooms start at $183 weekdays (including $19 in taxes) and $216 weekends (including $22 in taxes) for stays through May 24; rates with taxes typically start at $277 on weekdays and $342 weekends. The package also includes daily breakfast for two, a $36 value. Book by April 30 to receive a 20 percent discount on any spa service costing more than $100. Info: 800-448-7900, www.woodstockinn.com.

● Breezes Resorts and Spas is taking up to 50 percent off rates at its all-inclusive properties in Jamaica, Curacao, the Bahamas and Brazil. For example, at Breezes Grand Resort in Negril, Jamaica, pay $125 a night per person double, down from $250, on stays Aug. 18 through 31. At Breezes in Buzios, Brazil, the rate from June 15 to June 28 drops to $101, down from $202. Taxes are included. Book by April 18; travel May 1 to Dec. 14 for Curacao, Trelawny (Jamaica) and Brazil, and May 1 to Dec. 21 for Negril, Runaway Bay (Jamaica) and the Bahamas. Minimum stay of three nights. Info: 877-BREEZES (273-3937), www.breezes.com.


● Couples save $1,200 on four new departures of Grand Circle Cruise Line’s Danube River cruise. With the discount, the 11-day Old World Prague the Blue Danube trip starts at $1,895 per person double for the July 21 and 25 departures, and from $1,995 on Aug. 4 and 8. Price includes seven nights in an outside cabin on the M/S River Adagio or the M/S River Aria, three nights in a Prague hotel, 25 meals with wine during at-sea dinners, eight tours and more. Add $125 in port charges. The cruise visits Budapest; Bratislava, Slovakia; and Vienna, Durnstein, Linz and Salzburg in Austria. Info: 800-248-3737, www.gct.com.

● Holland America is offering savings of up to 50 percent on Alaska, Europe and Caribbean cruises. The deal applies to 18 itineraries with departures throughout 2012. For example, an interior cabin on the seven-night Mediterranean Glamour cruise departing Civitavecchia, Italy, on May 4 now starts at $726 per person double, including $77 taxes; the brochure rate was $1,298. Book by April 8. Info: 877-932-4259, www.hollandamerica.com.


● JetBlue has a sale on new routes, including one from Reagan National to Tampa starting June 11. Rates start at $170 round trip, including taxes. Other airlines charge closer to $200. Book by April 13; travel any day but Friday and Sunday from June 11 through July 31. Blackout dates apply. Another sale in the vicinity: Newark to San Juan, Puerto Rico, with service starting April 25 and rates from $319 round trip. Twenty-one-day advance purchase required. Info: 800-538-2583, www2.jetblue.com/deals/new-service.


● Spend nine nights on three Tahitian islands with a deal from Air Tahiti Nui. The promotion, which starts at $3,929 per person double, includes round-trip nonstop air from Los Angeles to Papeete; flights between Papeete, Moorea and Bora Bora; one night in a standard room at the InterContinental Tahiti Resort; three nights in a beach bungalow at the InterContinental Moorea Resort Spa; five nights in a lagoon-view overwater bungalow at the InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana Resort; transfers; breakfasts; and taxes. For the best prices, travel Nov. 1 to Dec. 10 and Jan. 11 to March 31, 2013. Booking deadline is four months in advance. Priced separately, the trip would cost about $770 more per couple. Info: 877-824-4846, www.airtahitinui-usa.com.

Submit travel deals to whatsthedeal@washpost.com. Prices were verified at press time Thursday, but deals sell out and availability is not guaranteed. Some restrictions may apply.

Article source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/travel/whats-the-deal-this-weeks-best-travel-bargains-around-the-globe/2012/03/29/gIQAb0MLlS_story.html

Summer travel shocker: Fuel prices spur soaring airfares

If you thought picking winners in this year’s March Madness basketball bracket was difficult, wait until you plan your summer travel budget.

Gasoline prices have increased to almost $4 a gallon and airfares are soaring.

It will be difficult to determine how much to budget for gasoline expenses and when to commit to airline tickets and fares. You might even need to be concerned about whether the small airport where you booked a flight will retain its service.

Oil-price speculation and international and U.S. election-year political rhetoric are among factors exacerbating customarily volatile fuel prices. Uncertainties in U.S. and world economies continue to affect consumer perceptions and travel demand.

“As long as there are continued tensions with Iran over sanctions put in place to curb their nuclear efforts, we will see volatility in the market that affects gas prices,” said Jessica Brady, AAA spokeswoman for The Auto Club Group.

George Hobica, an oft-cited aviation industry expert who heads airfarewatchdog.com, offers this advice to travelers from the Tampa area: “Take a cruise.”

“Airlines call them ‘sale fares’ at $300 to $400,” Hobica said. “It costs $432 for a round-trip between Tampa and Cleveland. That’s just discouraging. I don’t know where people get the money to pay these prices.”

Rising gas prices will affect business and leisure travel plans this summer, the U.S. Travel Association said in releasing a gas price survey this week conducted between March 8 and 11.

More than half of all travelers – 57 percent – who plan to travel by car would alter their travel plans if gas prices increased by 26 cents to $1.25, the survey found.

Nearly 40 percent of vacationers traveling by air would seek cheaper tickets before canceling their leisure trips and 10 percent of business travelers said they would switch modes of transportation if fares got higher, although most will continue to travel.

“We just deserve a vacation,” said Lanie O’Brien of Tampa, whose family intends to go ahead with a summer flight to San Francisco and spend time in Napa Valley. “I don’t know how much higher the fares are now than before. But we will sacrifice on other expenses to be able to travel.”

Last year, average airfares increased nearly 17 percent. Airlines have attempted five increases this year, the most recent two weeks ago when JetBlue Airways raised fares by $10 on many domestic flights. Southwest Airlines this week cited fuel prices for its $4 to $10 round-trip increases and Delta Air lines, US Airways, American Airlines, Frontier Airlines and United Airlines followed suit in raising fares.

Fortunately for local residents, average domestic airfares at Tampa International Airport customarily rank among the lowest nationwide, owing to plentiful competition among a mix of legacy and low-fare carriers.

The latest U.S. Department of Transportation data ending with the third quarter on Sept. 30 ranked Tampa 87th among the busiest 100 U.S. airports in average airfare at $305.39. The national average was $360.73.

The mainstay carrier at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, low-fare carrier Allegiant Air, serves 23 small markets with nonstop flights from Pinellas County.

None of the destinations that airlines from Tampa or St. Petersburg-Clearwater serve is on a list of 88 small-market airports that the trade journal Aviation Week Intelligence Network cited as vulnerable for jet service as airlines ground 37- to 70-passenger regional jets to counter higher jet fuel prices.

However, Lakeland – in a move announced as temporary – this month lost its only commercial airline service when Direct Air canceled flights operated with Sky King Airlines’ Boeing 737s because of rising jet fuel prices.

To cope with rising airfares, consumers must continue to seek what few “bargains” might exist. Airfarewatchdog.com is a free service that provides unadvertised and advertised airfares between destinations.

Southwest Airlines is offering 25,000 points that could be sufficient for a round-trip flight for those who accept a Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa card. Despite the $59 annual fee, the credit card could pay off with airfare savings and additional benefits it provides.

Long-term solutions are more dicey, fraught with political overtones. Airlines for America, a Washington-based trade group, is involved in the “Stop Oil Speculation Now” campaign supported by a range of organizations, companies and individuals.

“While the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Protection Act has been made into law, it hasn’t been implemented properly in order to close loopholes, improve oversight and increase transparency in commodity markets, which would mitigate the volatility of oil prices,” Airlines for America spokeswoman Victoria Day said.

Hobica said airlines must do better with adding newer, more fuel-efficient airliners. “I am shocked airlines have relied on fuel hedging for years that can backfire when they are locked into fuel contracts,” he said.

Lisa Sardegna, a Tampa resident who is a principle with Punch Boxing for Fitness training facilities, offers a simple solution to high gasoline prices.

“Everyone should go on strike by not buying gas for a day,” said Sardegna, who spends $80 on gas to travel every other week to a Miami business location, in addition to $80 a week for regular fuel purchases in the Tampa Bay area.

Gas prices, however, are just one component of the travel story, said David Huether, senior vice president for research for U.S. Travel.

“People see the cents and dollars add up as they pump gas,” Huether said. “But as job growth accelerates and unemployment comes down, that could outweigh fluctuations in gasoline prices.”

Article source: http://www2.tbo.com/news/business/2012/mar/30/gas-prices-fuel-soaring-air-fares-ar-386553/